MANILA, Philippines – The quartet of Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, CJ Perez, and Mo Tautuaa buckled down to work at the Ronac Gym on Wednesday, a day after they were announced as the country's representatives for the FIBA 3x3 Olympic qualifying tournament.
Though relieved to finally have everyone there, national team head coach Stefan Stojacic saw first-hand that there is still a lot of work to be done from now until the last week of March to get the team fully prepared.
"This is the first practice that we have all the players that are part of the OQT. I am happy about that because it is still one month before the tournament. I think we still have enough time to cover everything," said Stojacic, the 2018 FIBA 3X3 World Tour Most Valuable Player and coach of China as well.
Stojacic stressed that the level of play in the Southeast Asian Games, a tournament that saw CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa win gold, is a different animal compared to what they will face in Bengaluru, India from March 18 to 22.
"CJ and Mo are new players in 3x3. They played in the SEA Games but that tournament is totally different from the international level of playing 3x3. But they have quality, very good players. Now, we have to change their mindset to 3x3," Stojacic said.
"There is a lot of work to be done because of their lack of experience in playing 3x3 and how the game is different than 5-on-5. We have a month more to prepare them for the 3x3 game.
"They are for sure going to be a competitive team. The OQT is going to be really hard. A lot of work in front of us," he added.
The team played three tune-ups, and the games showed just how much needs to be done by the Filipinos.
The nationals bowed to the all-star team of Vrbas' Marko Brankovic (world No. 50), Ralja's Nebojsa Kilijan (No. 75), Belgrade's Vladimir Trajkovic (No. 116), and ex-Basilan import Marcus Hammonds (US No. 16), 13-16, to open the day.
Though they eked out a 16-14 win over local top 10 players Troy Rike, Karl Dehesa, Franky Johnson, and Chris De Chavez, Gilas 3x3 was handed a 9-11 loss to the visitors to cap the day.
That is why Munzon (PH No. 1) and Pasaol (No. 2) will have huge responsibilities on their shoulders, according to Stojacic.
"Alvin is going to be the glue guy here. He is going to connect all of them together. Also Josh. Josh is going to be the biggest influence," said Stojacic.
"All of them are great but Alvin and Josh are going to be the biggest influence. That is my opinion after just the first practice."
Stojacic is determined to change the view of Perez and Tautuaa on what 3x3 basketball is all about. More importantly and despite the short amount of time left for them, he plans on building the chemistry between all four of his players in the days to come.
"I'm here to put them together to play 3x3 on an international level and how they will be competitive for the OQT."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).